Through my CGO Surgeries and Kath Burlinson’s Authentic Artist Collective, I get to experience some extraordinary artists and theatremakers as they venture into the unknown with their power to transform lives. Alongside that Kath and I grab the occasional opportunity to see classic work in grown-up cultural halls.
This last weekend was therefore Fiona Shaw’s production of The Marriage of Figaro at English National Opera, followed by experiencing a group dreaming/storytelling Room, DV8 and the National Theatre’s extraordinary John and then an all day workshop on the power of sound to heal, create collective beauty, and change us through vibration.
Mozart’s sublime arias and complex plotting with Figaro was a delight. We’d bought the mystery seat option at ENO which meant we knew we’d see the show, but not where we’d be sitting. Two days before the show I received the e-tickets. Row F in the Stalls. Wow. The orchestra sounded wonderous, and the cast delivered Jeremy Sams’ witty translation with lightness and joy, My only disappointment was the set which looked as if it had been severely damaged in transit from set-model, through initial production, onto this evening’s revival – we could even see bits of sellotape on the ikea like panelling. Lighting and set tried, for me, to fight against the cast and piece.
But the following night we were again watching a revolving maze – this time the true story of John juxtaposed with the world of the gay sauna with DV8’s wonderful dance drama. Here the set and the lighting at the National Theatre were wonderfully supportive of the ever changing journey. I am so so glad to have managed to pick up a single last minute ticket and to see this powerful contemporary creativity.
As I type this I see more connections between the opera and this dance drama – both exploring the potentially destructive influence of sexual urges within a wider context of relationships. Both designs allowing our imaginations to fill in walls and hidden spaces from the scenic hinted structures,
ENO and the National Theatre – funded to create great art often with rich sets and staging, and bring it to the people mainly as seated observers. But between these two experiences was Room, and Derek Barnes’s sound workshop. Both created magic for me, and touched my inner creative core, with nothing but the power of suggestion, voice, and vibration.
Room is a storytelling experience for one participant at a time. I was invited into a space with my senses on alert, calmly invited to sit and listen…to hear the silence and then to hear the space between the words of introduction. I was asked to describe what I was hearing in that silence. From there for 20 minutes I went on an extraordinary fantastical journey of the imagination. Sometimes my own imagination, and more often the collective imagination of the three storytellers and soundscape creators who held me in the space.
The company have recently returned from Edinburgh where they created story worlds throughout the Festival. They are now exploring the widest possible areas of application and extension of this creativity. They are working with the science of collective thought. They are exploring work with young and old who have “lost” the ability to tell stories. They are working to introduce more storytellers and music makers into this amazing journey. I have been lucky enough to meet with them pre- and now post-Edinburgh. I have been blown away by the importance (and joyful playfulness) of this work. Explore more about them on http://www.welcometoroom.com/whatisroom
And finally Professor Derek Barnes. I first worked with Derek in 1988 on a Sondheim gala in Buxton with young direct Keith Warner and his MD colleague James Holmes. Over the years we have remained in touch. Most recently he did a crazy project with Kath Burlinson creating three new musicals with three different composers in Belfast in 10 days. I learned a little more about his research work into the power of sound and vibration to make a difference to our lives. On Sunday I spent a day witnessing and experiencing the work.
Now I’m a drop-out mathematician (two years at Bristol reading too little Maths and doing too many lighting plots) and so his quickly sketched graphs of time & space, vibrational pattern, and the power of numbers in the rotation of the earth rather satisfied me. This was all to help us realise that everything he was talking about was rooted in science – from Pythagoras to Einstein and onward to researchers today.
What we then witnessed was use of sound from the dawn of time, harnessed by tribal peoples across the world, and voiced/breathed to this day to connect to our emotions and physical being. If you wonder about the power of music to move you emotionally, or the extraordinary vibrational qualities of drumming, or the sense of natural harmonies of voices improvising together – then go to this day, and seek out to learn more.
Derek is a voice coach, a master of teaching singers, a composer, arranger and so much more besides. You appreciate the workshop at the level right for your personal development – you don’t need to be a singer at all (like me), but we all use our voice and our breathe consciously or unconsciously. Derek brings our awareness to focus a little more on the power we have to support our own health and wellbeing, and support others. Thank you for a great day.
Quite a weekend. And now as I type this I am at Mountview (on lunch break) offering classes to Acting 2nd years on the Wheel of Life, work-life balance, self-employed tax status, and what to do with that pile of receipts on the floor in the corner of your bedroom. If you are reading this and wished you’d had some guidance on any of these things, then either grab my book or grab a CGO Surgery.
Thank you ENO, NT, Room, Derek and Mountview for a rich mix of life